#Riverdale

I watch so much TV that it was inevitable that I would start reviewing shows and movies. The main problem with this lays with the fact that I am so behind on a number of cult shows (I only finished watching Breaking Bad in April 2017, and don’t even ask when I’m going to watch Better Call Saul) that not many people would find my reviews of any use or interest. That’s where the #netflixoriginals come in. A few weeks ago, I binged watched the first five episodes of #Riverdale and each week since, I have been waiting for the latest episode to be released – Friday America time, so it is usually Saturday morning before I get my fix.  And yes, I am hooked.

The initial pull came from the fact that it is loosely based on the Archie comics of my childhood. Hands up if one of your favourite things about a trip to India was being let loose in the bookstore to carry as many books and comics (Archie, TinTin, Asterix) as your little arms could carry? Flashback to Sydney 2016 when Raj found me after 10 minutes alone in a bookstore sitting on the floor surrounded by books and almost in tears trying to decide which ones to cull. I guess some things you never grow out of. Anyway, I digress.

So Riverdale. The show is set in the same town as the comics and the main characters share a name, and some basic personality traits with their literary counterparts but therein end the similarities. The TV show has been given a definite update for the 21st Century, with a healthy injection of film noire and modern-day anxieties and crimes running rife. Gone are the Dawson’s Creek type high school worries and in come changed identities while on the run from violent ex-partners, murder, embezzlement and psychiatric breakdowns. Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Veronica, Betty, Moose, Midge, Ethel. They are all there but fighting a whole different set of battles. Interestingly, the show has also jumped on the diversity bandwagon and many of the lead characters are #poc or at least have some ethnic ambiguity.

The first episode was a little strange I must admit. I kinda wanted to see the old school Betty and Veronica rivalry over lovable goon Archie, while Jughead sits in the side-lines  scoffing burgers and running from Ethel. Moose and Midge fighting, Reggie causing trouble, Archie’s parents being picture-perfect and Veronica’s dad being the over indulgent spoiler that every little girl deserves. But actually, whilst the sweeter than sweet version worked in pen and ink, I don’t think it would have translated well to the screen. So once I got over my expectations what I got was actually way better. Betty isn’t just the nice girl next door and Veronica is much more than the entitled rich bitch that everyone wants to be in with. They are forming the kind of ‘hos over bros’ friendship that goes beyond frenemies and you know that they have each others backs and Archie is not going to get in the middle like he always does. Veronica’s mum is totally present and figuring out how to fit herself back into her previous world and supports her daughter. Fred Andrews (er HELLO Luke Perry, your comeback to the screen is so very welcome) is figuring out life in a single parent world and the Coopers are hiding the truth about their elder daughter’s illegitimate pregnancy by calling it a mental illness. Underlying the entire series is the classic ‘Who dunnit’ storyline – who killed Jason Blossom? I’ve basically suspected every character, so I am looking forward to finding out who the killer actually is – and I really hope that they don’t make finding out a cliff hanger into Season 2.

As the episodes progress, darker issues rear their ugly heads causing concern about the newly-lovable characters but helpfully, it is a kind of concern that I can put aside for a week at a time without worrying too much. I think, given that I’m a girl who’ll read the end of the book first so that I can prepare myself for the worst, that this lack of concern is what they call progress.

I’m currently on episode 11 and we are no closer to finding out who the killer is but Polly is living with the Blossom’s (family of her baby-daddy) to do some snooping whilst it appears that Jughead’s dad has been framed for it, Betty & Jughead’s burgeoning relationship (I know!!)  has hit the rocks,  and it looks like Archie and Veronica might be taking real steps towards being together… Watch this space I guess.

If you’ve been taking a break from Netflix binge-ing, order in, get your fat pants on and binge away – totally worth it!

Sometimes…

Even I run out of things to talk about. So one of my tasks today was to write a blog post, but sitting here (well, lying here, as today I am adult-ing from my bed) I actually don’t have a lot to tell you folks about. My draft posts either (a) bored me when I was writing them or (b) need a lot more information than I currently have to hand to make sense. It isn’t like I’ve been sitting around Netflix-ing either. I’ve actually had days where I haven’t even put the TV on. I went to Singapore for a weekend to meet a friend *Hi Raj Mistry* and last weekend there was a Ski Trip organised by IFEZ to Pyeongcang – home of the winter Olympics 2018. At the start of February I finally signed up to PT sessions (with an English speaking trainer) and am working on my strength and mobility (and hopefully some weight loss as a bonus) but that’s not an interesting journey for anybody except my older brother and my sister-in-law (shout out to my personal fitness cheerleaders in Vancouver). I recently applied for a 6 month contract position as an events consultant, but more on that if and when I find out what the process is like. The baking has stopped in honour of our ‘get healthy’ regime but I’ll pull it out for special occasions. I continue to Instagram pictures of food. Oh, and I started a secret project that I obviously can’t write about because then it wouldn’t be a secret. Also, even when it isn’t a secret I am not sure I can write about it because, well, its complicated. Let’s forget I said anything.

I guess I could tell you a little about the weekend’s ski trip to Pyeongchang, but there isn’t a huge amount to tell. As IFEZ organize everything, the sum of your responsibility is to turn up to the G-Tower for the 4 hour coach journey to Pyeongchang and choose the activities that you want to do (Ski lesson, snow board lesson, just hang out etc.) On the return, we stopped at the Olympic Ski Jump venue which was awesome but my general lack of attention span means I didn’t listen to the tour guide and just wandered about and looked at things. The main thing I learnt is that this particular resort has a high level of English, so if you wanted to book a weekend trip there, it wouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. Here’s some pictures to keep you going:

Ok, one of my daily tasks from the trainer is to get out of the apartment and hit 6000 steps daily, so I better get going on that. Luckily, it is starting to warm up outside so the thought of a stroll through the park isn’t too arduous.

Happy Tuesday everyone – and I promise I’ll come up with more interesting things to write about soon!

The Weather

Weather is weather, right? You’ve got Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter and you know what to expect from the seasons. Not so in Songdo. Here, the weather is absolutely-off-the-charts-mental and you pretty much have to be prepared for every scenario.

Just last week (penultimate week of August) I was planning my days to make sure that I stayed indoors, with the lovely lovely AC, between midday and 5pm, just to avoid becoming one big sweat bucket the moment I left the apartment. Even at 9 or 10pm, it would be a sweltering 29 Celsius (Real Feel in the 30s) and that was supposed to be ‘cooler’ temperatures. Today, I’m sitting here watching buckets and buckets of rain top down and listening to the 90km/hr wind whistling outside the window. It is so strong, that I can’t even open some of the windows in the apartment due to the pressure! Our building receptionist just told me that this weekend is going to go back to be crazy-hot. Mental I tell you.

And let’s talk about the temperature swing while we are at it: from -20 Celsius in the winter up to a real feel of 40 Celsius in the height of summer. A full 60 degree swing is not something I have ever experienced before and, judging from the reactions of our friends here who hail from all over the world,  I’m not sure there are many countries that have the same temperature swing. People here are convinced that coming from London, the winters here must be nothing new for us but that is so far from the truth I don’t even know where the truth is when I look back.

Moral of the story: Be prepared for everything. You need to have:

(1) Thermals (100 denier tights, gloves, hats, scarves, coats and I love my trusty Uggs)

(2) Sunscreen – in the winter I can (and need to because the climate is super dry) use it in addition to moisturiser, and in the summer, in place of (more than one layer of product is not going to work well for anyone in the peak of summer humidity)

(3) Hats – for both hot and cold weather. And to cover up a bad hair day, you know.

(4) Umbrellas, and if you are going for true Korean-Style, you can use these as sun protection too, and for when it is too windy for an umbrella, rain jackets (NorthFace. Always NorthFace) and if you are a backpack carrier, a rain cover isn’t a bad idea.

(5) Sandals, trainers and rain-wear.

And you need to have these things year round, because you never know where the crazy will take you next.

5 Things I Miss From London

I’ve been reading a lot of expat blogs – not just expats in Korea, but worldwide and there are a couple of posts that everyone seems to have in common:

  • Five things I miss from X (also known as least favourite things in X) [insert country here]
  • Top five things about X [insert country here]

So I decided to take a leaf out of their pages and today I will write about the things that I miss from London. There are the obvious things, that I knew I would need to have (TEA! English Breakfast Tea!) but as I had planned for those, they didn’t make the list..

(1) Ease of doing things

OK, so this isn’t a physical thing but at home, in pretty much any situation, I know where to go or who to contact for a quick fix. A current example is that my allergies are playing up, which means the corners of my eyes are super itchy which means a nasal spray is needed. At home, I would stroll into Boots, pick up my choice of spray and 2 squirts later, problem solved. In Songdo, I know which pharmacy I can go to (the one which involves the least amount of sign language) but I’ve had to prepare for the outing by looking up the active ingredients in the spray I would use, taking screenshots and Google Translating “Allergies” into Korean in advance. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that I have to do this every single time I need to do something ‘new’ it adds up . Hopefully tomorrow won’t bring the news that I need a prescription – otherwise 3 phone-calls later (me to the hotline, hotline to the hospital, hotline to me to confirm appointment) I might, if I’m lucky, be able to control my allergies in a weeks time…

(2) My own girl friends my own age

I know I am lucky to be living in an age replete with technology so I can email/WhatsApp/skype/Facetime my friends and family pretty much on demand – time differences are my only obstacle, but even then, if I want to chat to my mum, she’ll pick up anytime. And yes, there is a really nice group of girls here to hang out with (wine and dessert is universal after all) but the reason that they are within my orbit is Raj’s job. They are either his colleagues or his colleagues’ spouses (and typically, the latter tends to be older than me). But what I do miss is having pals of my own that I can call on for a night in or out or a good old gossip as need dictates. I am pretty sure my incessant rambling and heightened levels of crazy is going to be too much for Raj at some point or another… so all I can hope is that more families like us rock up in Songdo soon!

(3) The BBC

Or ITV, or Channel 4 or any Sky channels. I basically miss the kind of TV that is background noise whilst you get on with other things. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that we get Netflix here is a total lifesaver, but when I just want background noise, unless I play a series or a film that I have seen a million times, there isn’t a lot. Also, all the English is American English. I miss hearing a British voice or two – yesterday in Seoul, I almost gave myself whiplash when I heard a British accent on the metro. I was never an avid news watcher, but I always knew what was going on, simply through flicking through the free papers on the tube or having the news on in the background. Yes the internet is a great source of information but I spend a lot of my time on a computer as it is and I would enjoy taking my time offline wherever possible.

(4) Working

OK, this one is a double edged sword and will almost certainly be making an appearance in my top 5 things about Korea post, as it has been amazing having a long break (and as a freelancer, knowing that it is OK for me to do so) from the world of work and I am in a very fortunate position to be able to take the break. I’ve spent the time learning a lot of things that women of my mother’s generation would have learnt as a matter of course but was always too ‘unfeminist’ for today’s girl to want to spend her time doing. I’m teaching myself to cook and keep house and my limited sewing abilities are increasing which has all been quite enjoyable. I’ve also been able to indulge in my hobbies – knitting, writing, readingand general trial and error. Nonetheless, I do miss having a purpose outside of the house, where I can see an end result and know that my hard work created it. For the last three years, around this time of year, I’ve been gearing up to produce a Festival on London’s South Bank. Yes, the work was intense and hard and I invariably cried one day and fell sick immediately afterwards but when I look back at the pictures and feedback, I feel extremly lucky and proud that I was a part of it. My former colleagues are currently setting up this year’s event and I miss being there – including the hateful ‘profit and loss’ spreadsheets.

(5) Potato Waffles

Ok, a frivolous one to end the list – of course there are other things that I miss more but I have to say, I’m quite looking forward to having some Bird’s Eye Potato Waffles (they’re waffley versatile) when we go home over summer. Despite the fact that I am trying to be on a pre-London diet,  I’m looking forward to a Roast Lunch, Potato Waffles, breaded fish (or any kind of fish) and all sorts of other foods and food combinations that a peculiar Indian-English creature like me would enjoy.

So that’s that. I know most, or all, of these will be resolved given time but that’s where we stand for the moment! Here’s my parting photo.. a view of my old event from Millenium Bridge in London

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Apartment Hunting

We arrived and moved into The Prau straight away, as it was the recommended building, and, well, the thought of having a nice warm flat to move into upon arrival was far more enticing than staying in a hotel until we were ready to move again. It is about 20 minutes walk from The GCF and a good starting point. Most of the people I have spoken to seem to have stayed here for at least a month, depending how long their permanent home search took.  The apartments are fully furnished (a rare find here in South Korea) and with basic cookware and bedding – although you have to request these to be included in the apartment. They are also pretty flexible about timelines – we started off booking for one month but as I right, our second month in the apartment is coming to an end and we are extending for one more week. The ultimate luxury is that the wifi is up and running and there is a smart TV (remember the Apple TV post – this is where it comes in handy) set up and ready to use.

We contacted all the real estate agents that were suggested to us, but only one replied – Mr. Juny Park (juneland@naver.com/  +82 10-4366-3515). He speaks English well and communicates via whatsapp so whilst you are using your home phone, it is still easy enough to set up appointments with him. I had shared our preferences for apartment (size, bedrooms, area etc) with Juny prior to arriving in Songdo and he lined up several options for us to look at straight away. You cannot overestimate how useful it is having someone who speaks the language in your corner and renting in Korea is a very peculiar beast.

Edit: A further agent that people have used more recently and really like is Mr B Cho at Songdo Homes (songdohomes@gmail.com). Always nice to have another contact just in case! Whilst I was perfectly happy with Juny, newer arrivals have preferred Mr Cho – the choice is yours! 

Key Money vs Monthly Rent

The strangest thing about renting here is the upfront deposit that everyone is required to put down. To be completely straight up about it – monthly rents pay the landlord’s mortgage (or the Korean equivalent) and they make money by investing the deposits that they require all tenants to pay. The deposits can vary from $10,000 USD to $50,000 and the general rule is, the lower the deposit, the higher the monthly rent.  However, it is always worth seeing an apartment even if the deposit seems outrageous. On the way over to our new place (Central Park 1..more on that below) I mentioned to Juny that the requested deposit was way too high, even though the rent seemed reasonable. By the time Raj and I had look in the first cupboard, he has got the landlady to agree to reduce the deposit to a figure within our budget – all is well that ends well.

Contracts

Make sure that you request the contracts in both English and Korean and if possible, ask a Korean-speaking colleague to check that the contract written in Korean matches the English one. A typical GCF clause is the ‘diplomatic clause.’ This allows the tenant to give 2 months notice to the Landlord – usually contracts are set for 1 or 2 years with no break clause. Our landlady wasn’t keen on the clause and we were happy to have it removed, but in return asked for a reduction in rent, or that some of the white goods that we were hoping to avoid buying were left behind. In the end, the clause remained and we got a treadmill out of it – no excuses for sitting around now!

Central Park

Most of the apartments in the Central Park complex are unfurnished. If you are lucky, you can get a landlord to leave behind a fridge and/or washing machine, unfortunately we didn’t get anything (except the aforementioned treadmill.) There are three mini-complexes within the overall complex – Central Park 1, Central Park 2 and Central Park 3. Each building has different sized apartments and different benefits, so it is worth going to visit one apartment in each building to decide what suits you the best. Some have gyms included, some don’t. You need to apply for parking in each one. All are very close to the GCF so expect some lunchtime visits from the spouse… What each one has in common is that utilities will be payable on top of the rent – make sure you ask about these. Whilst they are largely based on usage (eletricity, water and gas) there are some fixed costs – maintenance, service charge etc.

Household Items

Key places to get your shopping done include, Homeplus, Lotte, Emart, Ikea and Costco.

The most important tip in the first three is ALWAYS ASK FOR THE REAL PRICE. We were lucky and Juny took us to buy a fridge and TV and we learnt that the prices on display are never the ones that you will actually pay. So ask and ask and ask until you find someone with enough English to confirm the actual cost for you – you’ll be presently surprised.Whenever you buy something large from these stores, they will deliver and install as well. Ikea offers a delivery service (at an additional cost) and at a further cost, will also build your furniture for you and Costco offers a delivery service (and installation for items like washing machines).  Speaking of washing machines, if you are able to ship your own from home, I’d recommend it. If, like us, there are just the two of you, the washing machines available here are all HUGE (14kg and above) and I am really struggling to find something smaller – so much so I am seriously considering asking our landlord at The Prau if he’ll sell us the washing machine from here!

So moving day is actually tomorrow and I’ll fill you in as to how the move itself goes, as well as how we managed the language barrier when getting deliveries into the building (Language classes really could not start any sooner!)

 

English TV

I know this isn’t the most important thing to know about before making the move to South Korea, but Raj and I are big TV watchers, so figuring out how to indulge our addiction was important to both of us.

Speaking to our apartment manager, we quickly found out that all the basic television channels are in Korean, and even if you subscribe to a cable-esque package, there still won’t be much by the way of English TV. Compounding the problem was the fact that the DVD player  we brought over from London – so that we could watch our UK box sets without worrying about regions –  couldn’t be attached to the TV in our serviced apartment (some cable input missing somewhere.. once we figured out that it wouldn’t work, I didn’t delve too far into the why).

Now, I am a bonafide PC-user, but I have to admit that Apple saved our TV-watching lives. We had bought an Apple TV set a year or so ago, and managed to hook it up to the TV giving us access to all the films we had purchased, making it possible for us to play DVDs on the TV via Raj’s Mac/Apple TV/Wifi and.. joy of joys, access to the newly arrived Netflix!

Now you don’t get all the shows that you are used to at home – I still don’t know if the new season of House of Cards will be accessible to us here – but there is definitely enough to keep you going, especially if you are a house-wifey-type-being like myself upon arrival.

Moral of the story: Before moving to Songdo, hook yourself up with Apple TV and make sure that your initial accommodation comes with a Smart TV and Wifi. Believe me, in the cold winter months, when going out isn’t always an option (have I mentioned the -17 degree centigrade weather?!?!) the ability to stay entertained indoors is important! IMG_4214

Ps. Get some hobbies as well. I picked knitting and so ‘Netflix and Knitting’ is a regular part of my morning routine. Added bonus – there are knitting cafes in Seoul which I fully intend on visiting once I’ve got the warm back in my bones 🙂

Cooking.

Yup it had to be mentioned. Now it’s not that I dislike cooking, it’s just that I don’t see it as a huge deal – just something that has to be done and so will be.

I quite like trying out new recipes, especially when I have random ingredients that I am trying to use up, it just isn’t something that I want to spend all my time doing. Having said that, when it is necessary, I’ll step up (as would anyone) and never has it been more necessary than trying to feed my vegetarian husband a balanced diet in meat-loving-Korea. I guess the fact that I throw in a load of booze with every meal masks the fact that my cooking skills aren’t exactly up to scratch 🙂

I think the toughest thing about cooking in South Korea is that the ingredients aren’t what I’m used to and all the recipes I have / know require ingredients that aren’t readily available here. But you learn and you can pretty quickly start adapting things. My mum always said that as long as you know what good food is supposed to taste like, with a little trial and error, you can start to produce it.

One day last week, I woke up with a desire to make Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) which is not only full of protein but is most certainly not available in Songdo and is also one of Raj’s favourite foods.

Following this recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/paneer_86451 (Thanks BBC) I successfully made paneer with my limited resources (I don’t have muslin, or weights, or a very large pan). I also ended up with a load of whey, which I believe can be used for other purposes, but that is going to be another experiment.IMG_4201.JPG

All in all, I’ve managed to feed Raj for just over a week and he hasn’t politely suggested going out for all our meals yet.. long may it continue!

28/01/2016:

Just a couple of updates to add here:

(1) One great thing about the South Korean supermarkets is the sheer number of samples you can have (presuming that, like me, you’ll eat anything at least once) whilst shopping. It’s helped me to figure out what certain items are, and also, kept the hunger at bay so I don’t buy things based on my stomach!

(2) One tip – when you find something that you like (either you’ve used it before, or it is something from home) and it is on promotion – buy it! Prices change all the time, seemingly without any reason, so use that storage space and buy the long lasting items whilst the going is good!

That’s all for now folks..

05/04/2016:

I’m getting more adventurous in my Iyengar (my community in India) cooking to varying degrees of success. Sometimes I’ll throw everything away in a fit of anger that it doesn’t taste like my mum’s food and sometimes I’ll persevere and get somewhere close. Alongside amma’s recipes, she suggested I use http://www.malas-kitchen.com/ as a guide and it is such a great help and thoroughly recommended, especially if burning toast is about as far as your cooking skills go!